Seed Sovereignty

Seed Sovereignty

Celebrating smallholder farmers and seed diversity in South Africa: Report from the national seed dialogue and celebration

January 2018

On 8 and 9 December 2017 the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) hosted a national seed dialogue and celebration at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. Farmer representatives from eight provinces, along with civil society organisations, academics, and officials from the Agricultural Research Council and Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) participated in cultural events and dialogues on current and emerging issues on smallholder farmers and seed diversity in South Africa.

A discussion on the political context highlighted the instability of the globalised corporate food system, and the possibilities and challenges for alternatives based on different systems of production and distribution to take root in material reality. A dialogue on current revisions to South Africa’s Plant Breeders’ Rights Act and Plant Improvement Act raised concerns about the exclusive commercial focus of the Acts and the marginalising impact they have on farmer seed systems and on agricultural biodiversity. In 2017 civil society and farmer associations raised their voices in public hearings and submissions. DAFF acknowledged the importance of popular participation and of agricultural biodiversity yet appears to be locked in an approach shaped by the interests of multinational corporations. Civil society has more work to do in 2018 to advocate

Art, Seed Sovereignty and Activism: Weaving New Stories

January 2018 
By Claire Rousell

Preparing for the National Seed Dialogue and Celebration, hosted by the African Centre for Biodiversity, smallholder farmers, activists and government officials are crowded into the atrium of the Women’s Jail at Constitution Hill and a drum is beating. A performer, Simo Mpapa Majola, dressed in blankets, is praying and singing and imploring the audience. He is telling the story of the women who work on a farm, who have been marginalised over and over, and yet are relentless in their search for “She-sus”, the She-God, and unswerving in their connection to the soil.

Around the edges of the atrium are tables adorned with bowls and jars, hand-crafted wooden trays and woven baskets of seeds, resplendent in their diversity of colours, shapes and textures. Farmers and activists have brought the seeds from across the country to show the art of the soil – its wild excess that is still available to us – despite its depletion due to the demands of global capitalist supply chains that have destroyed agricultural biodiversity. The displays of seeds are arranged on beautiful shweshwe table cloths, interspersed with traditional tools for the preparation and serving of food: a woven beer filter,

Status report on the SADC, COMESA and EAC harmonised seed trade regulations: Where does this leave the regions’ smallholder farmers?

This paper, The Status Report on the SADC, COMESA and EAC harmonised seed trade regulations: Where does this leave the regions’ smallholder farmers?, researched and written by Linzi Lewis and Sabrina Masinjila of the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), provides a brief background and status update on efforts by regional economic communities to harmonise seed trade and marketing policy and legislation in East and Southern Africa. This paper focuses on the Technical Agreements on Harmonisation of Seed Regulations of the Southern African Development Community (SADC, 2008), the Seed Trade Harmonisation Regulations of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA, 2014), and the regional seed harmonisation programme of the East African Community (EAC).

The skewed nature of these harmonisation efforts, which focus solely on the formal seed sector, has continued to neglect and obstruct participation by African civil society groups in the development of such regulations. This has prevented meaningful involvement by civil society and smallholder farmers in decision-making processes on issues that directly affect their livelihoods, seed and food systems.

This paper offers a critique of these frameworks which firmly embed green revolution approaches in Africa, favoring large scale agribusiness as the solution to seed insecurity in

Bayer-Monsanto merger: An existential threat to South Africa’s food system

PRESS RELEASE

In December 2016 Monsanto shareholders voted in favour of the sale of the company to Bayer for US$66 billion, making it the largest-ever foreign corporate takeover by a German company.

Both Bayer and Monsanto are major global manufacturers of agrochemicals and seeds, including genetically modified seed. A merged entity would be the world’s largest supplier by sales of both seeds and pesticides, controlling 29 percent of the world’s commercial seed markets and 24 percent of the world’s pesticide markets. Bayer and Monsanto are major actors in South Africa’s seed and agrochemical industries. The deal will require approval from about 30 regulatory agencies around the world, including by South Africa’s Competition Commission.

The BAYER-MONSANTO merger: Implications for South Africa’s agricultural future and its smallholder farmers

This paper explores the likely implications of an approved Bayer-Monsanto merger for the South African agricultural system. It outlines the trend of consolidation occurring within the seed and agrochemical industries, provides a background to the merger, criticises the rationale given for the merger by Bayer and Monsanto and outlines concerns should the merger be approved in South Africa.

These concerns focus on the implications for South African farmers, smallholder farmers
in particular. The paper argues that further consolidation of an already corporate- controlled seed sector is not needed and that it undermines the emergence of an alternative system that would support smallholder farmers in contributing to food security in an egalitarian agricultural economy.

Download the full report in PDF

 

Against the odds, smallholder farmers maintain agricultural biodiversity in South Africa

This report is a result of research conducted in partnership with Tshintsha Amakhaya, Farmer Support Group, TCOE Zingisa and Surplus People Project. The report investigates the state of farmer-managed seed systems in rural South Africa.

Through 3 case studies in Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, the report highlights both the fragility and perseverance of smallholder farmers, who continue to maintain agricultural biodiversity and traditional knowledge, in the face of increasing pressure from all sides. Smallholder farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to make end meet in an agricultural sector dominated by large-scale commercial production and corporate value chains.

Multinational corporations dominate seed provision in South Africa, further driving a commercial and industrial Green Revolution agenda. Farmer-managed seed systems, and the diversity of crops and diets that rely on them, are marginalised and neglected in the process.
The research is one step in highlighting the threats and opportunities facing smallholders and biodiversity in an increasingly harsh production environment. ACB will continue working with our partners and smallholder farmers to support and promote sustainable farming practices and farmer-managed seed systems as part of our broader objectives to transform seed and food systems in South Africa.

Download full report in PDF format

Standing up for farmer-saved seeds, agrobiodiversity and seed sovereignty! ACB commenting on revised seed laws in South Africa

ACB submitted comments on the Plant Breeders’ Rights and Plant Improvement Bills, to the Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources on the 24th January 2017.

These bills restrict the saving, trading, exchanging, and sale of seed. This can have massive ramifications on seed and food sovereignty, agricultural biodiversity, access to diverse seed, and increasing the disparities and inequalities in South African agriculture, food and nutrition.

ACB will continue to engage in this process to ensure that South African seed laws take into account farmer-managed seed systems, agrobiodiversity, and maintain farmer’s rights to save, reuse, exchange, and sell seed.

We invite interested parties to join this conversation, to fight for our right to seed.

 

Download the ACB Comments on the PBR Bill in pdf

Download the ACB Comments on the PIA Bill in pdf

Comments on the revised draft regulations (draft 3) for implementing the Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants

Further comments on the revised regulations (draft 3) for the implementation of ARIPO’s Arusha Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, that will be submitted for adoption in December 2016. This paper focuses on some of the most problematic aspects that needs to be rectified by ARIPO Member States as these perpetuate impingement of national sovereignty; fail to safeguard Farmers’ Rights and farmer seed systems; and to prevent biopiracy. These comments have been produced without prejudice to our very strong opposition to the Arusha PVP Protocol and our consistent position that it represents an inappropriate regional legal framework for the ARIPO region, wherein 13 out of the 19 member states are least developed countries (LDCs) and under no legal obligation to implement plant variety protection (PVP) regimes.

Download the Document in PDF

Farmer-managed seed systems in Dowa, Malawi: A legacy of eroded confidence and agricultural diversity after decades of Green Revolution implementation

This report is the product of field work conducted by ACB and Kusamala Institute for Agriculture and Ecology in Dowa district in central Malawi. The objective of the research was to deepen our understanding of the role of farmer seed varieties in smallholder production systems that have come under heavy pressure from concerted Green Revolution interventions; to look at the extent of agricultural biodiversity loss; and to identify farmer priorities in ensuring adequate diversity ad resilience of seed into the future.

Download 1,1Mb PDF Report

Mapping farmer seed varieties in Manica, Mozambique: initial investigations into agricultural biodiversity

This scoping exercise to deepen our understanding of the current context of seed use, main crops and varieties in the research localities in order to gather evidence of the ongoing importance of farmer seed systems in the agricultural practices and livelihoods of smallholder farmers, to identify cases of biodiversity loss and to use this information to build the case for the importance of protecting and supporting farmer-managed seed systems (FMSS) on the continent.

Download the Mozambique Field report

Download PORTUGUESE language of the Mozambique Field report